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High Court backs Government in WEEE case

Compliance scheme Repic has lost its court case over waste electrical and electronic equipment rules against the Government. However, the judge confirmed that compliance schemes must have a viable plan in place to collect no more and no less WEEE than is necessary to meet it obligations.

Mr Justice Wyn Williams ruled (31 July) that the UKs regulations governing the collection, treatment and recycling of electrical and electronic equipment are lawful and entirely consistent with the European Union Directive.

Repic took the Government to court because it claimed that it was failing to close loopholes in the system and take action against over-collecting schemes. Repic also claimed that the WEEE Regulations were unlawful as they fail to provide any mechanism to prevent schemes from charging excessive prices for evidence notes at the end of each compliance period.

The judge ruled that producer compliance schemes should have viable plans to collect an equivalent amount of WEEE to that for which it is financially responsible and not ignore those plans and collect more (or less) than the plans specify when there is no need to do so in order to comply with its obligations.

Speaking about the ruling, Minister for Business Ian Lucas said: Todays (31 July) ruling is a resounding endorsement of the UK WEEE Regulations. We are recycling more electrical equipment than ever before which is a testimony to the system.

It is now time for all producers and their representative organisations including Repic and its members to operate in partnership to ensure the UK WEEE system works to the advantage of all involved, maximising the separate collection of WEEE in the UK and ensuring the highest standards of treatment and reprocessing.

The judge also pointed out that it was open to the Environment Agency to take criminal proceedings against over-collecting producer compliance schemes or under-collecting schemes, since an offence contrary to Regulation 73 (3) [creates the offences under the WEEE Regulations] is triable on indictment no time limit for bringing a prosecution applies.

Repic chief executive Philip Morton said its decision to launch a judicial review had been vindicated. He said: If schemes deliberately over-collect in breach of that plan they will be in breach of their ongoing conditions of approval and guilty of a criminal offence. This is consistent with the view that Repic has held since the implementation of the WEEE Regulations. Repic has long campaigned to stop the wilful and deliberate over-collection by some schemes undermining the UK WEEE system.

The judge mentioned the interested parties as Electrolink and City Compliance because they were recognised in court as over-collectors. Electrolink was contracted to fund the collection and processing of WEEE by a number of local authorities and producers and had a lot more collection sites than Repic so ended up with a surplus of evidence notes.  Repic, on the other hand, did not have enough collection sites to provide the notes required to meet its members obligations under the WEEE Regulations and had to buy these notes from Electrolink to balance its obligations. Repic sought to prevent Electrolink and City Compliance from over-collecting and claimed that the schemes were undermining the WEEE system.

Electrolink chief executive Barry Van Danzig said: This is a great and justifiable victory for the Government in this review. The regulations stand as they must and we the schemes, including Repic, have to obey them in line with the directions of the regulators. Those directions are very clear and under-collectors have to either reduce their obligation or appoint over-collectors to collect WEEE on their behalf. The real beneficiary is however the environment and the local authority as the authority can select the scheme that will work in the best interests of the environment, rather than simply trying to comply with the regulations at the lowest possible cost to producers regardless of how that affects the local authority or their DCF contractor.

Lucas explained that the Government will continue to monitor the system and will be bringing forward amendments to the regulations for introduction in 2010 which will streamline the system and reduce the administrative burden placed on businesses.



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